News

Frank Marino, CSP •

Protecting America's Workers Act

OSHA Aims to Increase its Presence in the Modern Workplace.

On April 18th, 2013, in a move called “vital to improving the health and safety of the American worker ”, House of Representative Democrats have reintroduced the Protecting America’s Worker Act legislation. If you recall, this legislation was originally introduced several years ago by then Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Although it never received the support it needed to pass, several elected officials still feel strongly that this specific legislation has a place in the current workplace. In a statement by Representative George Miller (D-CA), “Congress needs to work together to increase these outdated penalties and give real teeth to the law so that workers and communities can remain safe while trying to make a living ” (Safety & Health, 2013). If passed into law, the Protecting America’s Law Act (H.R. 1648) would:

  • Expand OSHA coverage to all state, local and federal government employees.
  • Increase civil penalties for the first time in 20 years.
  • Require employers to immediately abate certain hazards found during an OSHA inspection.
  • Allow felony prosecution of employers who “knowingly ” commit OSHA violations that lead to a death or serious injury.
  • Improve whistleblower protections

Regardless of the outcome of this bill, OSHA is looking to improve worker safety with an increase in their upcoming budget. On April 10, 2013, President Obama proposed a budget that would provide OSHA with a $6 million increase in funding for whistleblower protection and approximately $2 million for the development of standards. The overall proposed budget of $573 million dollars of funding to OSHA ‘s 2014 fiscal year would be a slight increase over the 2013 budget of $571 million (Safety & Health, 2013). An item in the proposed budget that should be noted by all CRCA members is the proposed decrease of $3 million from the compliance assistance programs. This decrease could have a significant effect on the viability of the CRCA / OSHA Alliance Committee.

It’s possible this effort is in response to recent statistics recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, 4,693 workers died on the job in 2011 – a number virtually even with the 4,690 fatalities in 2010 (BLS, 2013). It’s important to keep in mind that these statistics represent all employees in the country covering multiple industries. I make that note because there is some good news to report for the construction industry. Local efforts, specifically those by members of the Chicagoland Roofing Contractors Association, appear to be paying off. The 2011 final figure for the private construction sector represent a 5 percent decline for the final 2010 total, making the fifth consecutive year of decline in the industry (BLS, 2013).

Despite these improvements for the roofing community, there are still those elected officials that feel additional changes still need to be made. “Too many workers are still dying , getting inured, or becoming ill by working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions ” stated Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) in a recent press release. “These bills will provide OSHA with the additional tools it needs to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for every American ”.

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